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The iPad mini: What I Was Weighting For

Spoiler alert: I plan on picking up an iPad mini the moment that the pre-order window opens (which is likely at 3 AM EST, this Friday). I’ve been pretty excited about the new device ever since I laid eyes on it (a whopping 24 hours ago). Yet there are techies out there who would rather shush my growing excitement with talk of mere iPad 2 internals and the whole device being $30, if not $80 too expensive to capture the right market.

One of the iPad mini criticisms that has been closest to spoiling my fun has been that of the internals – specifically the iPad 2’s “reused” A5 system-on-a-chip. I’m typing this piece on an iPad 2 right now. It’s the same iPad 2 I’ve been using since, well, the iPad 2’s release, and I can tell you from daily usage that the thing is no slouch. What it is, however, is heavy for one-handed, or even extended two-handed use.

So, come Friday, I intend to order a 32GB iPad mini in white. My hope is that it will become my main tablet machine, after which point I’ll sell this iPad 2 – I don’t foresee needing or using two tablets. I see the 7.9″ form factor and pad-of-paper weight class as the device’s main attractions.

There are a lot of things I’ve wanted to do with the iPad over the last year-and-a-half, but the activities I tend to settle on are writing, reading, and watching. None of these activities tend to require all that much firepower on the CPU end, and seeing as my iPad 2 has served me well in these regards, the iPad mini should be fast enough for my needs.

The major factor I’ve been feeling hesitant about is the screen size and how comfortable it will be to write on the machine. 7.9″ looks like plenty of screen space based on the product shots, hands-on videos, and reviews of smaller 7″ tablets like the Kindle Fire HD and Nexus 7, but I can’t know until I try it. Then again, this one possible downside is countered by quite a number of advantages, offered by the drastically reduced weight of the device.

The only other worry I have is a little more distant and niche. Bluetooth keyboards like the one on the Writer Plus are already shrunk-down versions of their larger laptop counterparts, so I’m wondering how manufacturers will adapt and develop keyboards for the iPad mini. I’ll definitely be on the market for a keyboard case – especially one I can use on my lap – but I’m hoping manufacturers don’t try to squish any further. I’d much rather have a keyboard case that’s a bit bigger than my iPad mini, than a smaller keyboard that’s designed to fit flush with the device. Logitech, adonit, and whoever else is planning a keyboard – please take note!

I see my current iPad 2 like a touchscreen monitor I can tote between flat surfaces. The iPad mini, on the other hand, looks like it can transition beautifully from the desk to the couch – and it’s just small enough that I might feel brave enough to use it on public transport one day. The decreased weight also means that the device lends itself to reading and watching, because it should be a lot easier to hold. People tout the Nexus 7 and the 7″ Kindle Fire HD as usable in one hand, so when you consider that the iPad mini is lighter than either of these tablets, it should be a delight to use for Instapaper and Netflix.

I’m very, very eager to get my hands on an iPad mini. I don’t mind that it lacks a Retina display, or even an A6 chip. The screen size looks great for my purposes, and the reduced weight is exactly what I wanted out of an iPad upgrade. The mini should also make for a clearer distinction between what I use my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro for (I love when devices have very clear-cut use cases).

Long story short: look for an iSource review – or possible multiple iSource reviews – just a little after November 2.

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